The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Science and Technology, Dr Mohammed Bello, has admitted buying what the Federal Government described as an “uncompleted carcass” building for the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for N7 billion.

Bello, who was responding to the query by the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC have cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Yemi-Esan said she issued the query on the order of the President Muhammadu Buhari, who she said had been briefed about Bello’s conducts.

However, Bello who claimed that the purchase of the building was approved by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, claimed that he has been cleared by the anti-graft agencies.

““Kindly note that we have been invited, interrogated and cleared by the EFCC and ICPC on this particular matter after glaring facts were presented to them,” he said.

The Query

In a leaked query, obtained by The Street Journal, Bello was asked by the presidency to explain how budgetary funds in billions of naira was misappropriated while he was overseeing the affairs of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

In a preliminary letter/query issued on 11th May, 2020 and signed by Dr. Yemi-Esan, Bello was alleged to have use his position as Permanent Secretary and Accounting Officer, to involve in some shady transactions as well as holding on to budgetary allocation meant for contractors and other activities of government, among other allegations.

The allegations were said to be acts of serious misconduct as provided in PSR 030401 and 030402, which, if proven, could lead to dismissal from service.

According to the letter, in spite of the budgetary release of the N98, 405,763,678.68 in 2018 (which represents 99.44 of 2018 appropriation) to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Bello as Perm Sec did not take necessary action to pay the eligible contractors which led to the Ministry having an outstanding contractual liability in the sum of N48,429,543,895.72.

In the same manner, the letter stated that under Bello’s watch, the Ministry procured seven drilling rigs for borehole at an average cost of N300,000,000.00, without recourse to the Federal Executive Council or Head of Service of the Federation.

However, in April 2019, the embattled Permanent Secretary was said to have given out the seven rigs procured at N1.3 billion to some individuals under fraudulent arrangement, without the approval of the minister, and one of the rigs linked to him, was yet to be returned despite several written reminders as at the time the query was issued.

Bello was also alleged to have misapplied the intervention funds approved for the purchase of strategic grains and the establishment of the rural grazing areas settlements in violation of financial regulations.

The letter gave two of such misappropriations to include the use of N2,026,838,775.25 to pay contractors and execute programmes from the funds released for emergency procurement of strategic grains which was unrelated to the purpose of the funds.

Bello was also accused of using N3,527,300,419.06 for the payment of questionable contracts awarded under the 2018 appropriation, from the rural grazing area settlement scheme which was also said not to be related to the purpose of the funds.

She, therefore, gave the embattled permanent secretary a 72-hour ultimatum to respond to the allegations if he so desires.

Agric Minister approved purchase

Bello in his response dated 14th May, 2020, said that the approval for the building was granted by the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, who he accused of conspiring with the current Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Dr. Mu’azu Abdulkadir, of alleging that the purchased office building was unfit for use.

He also claimed that due process was followed to the latter in the purchase of the said building.

He noted that the processes that were followed includes expression of interest to sell the property forwarded by the company to the Hon. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, among others.

“After submission of recommendation to the Hon. Minister of Agriculture; He approved that Council Meme be made to that effect. We then sent the Memo to the Secretary to Government of the Federation when then scheduled it for Federal Executive Council Approval. Consequently, the Federal Executive Council approved (vide Council Extract) the purchase of the building,” he noted in his response.

Bello claimed that Dr. AbdulKadir awarded and executed projects worth N3bn in his locality in complete disregard for due process.

“It is worthy of note at this point that it is the current Permanent Secretary FMARD who is actually guilty of virement as since after the approval of the above contracts has refused to sign and release letters of award of contract to the respective contractors but instead diverted and vire the funds to other projects in his locality that were never part of the appropriation, neither advertised nor bided for. This is a case of unequivocal virement.

” The project in his locality that he awarded and executed in complete disregard for due process is estimated at over N3,000,000,000,” he added.